Congo rumba star Tabu Ley Rochereau mourned in Kinshasa


Thousands of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have attended the state funeral of rumba star Tabu Ley Rochereau in the capital, Kinshasa.

The day has been declared a national holiday and the funeral service took place at the parliament.

Tabu Ley, who died last month, wrote more 3,000 songs during his long career and was popular across much of Africa.

Speaking during the service, musician Koffi Olomide called for 9 December to be declared "national rumba day".

Tabu Ley was one of the pioneers of Congolese rumba, known as soukous, with lyrics usually sung in the local Lingala language.

Image caption,
Fans of all ages came to parliament for the service

Soukous comes from the French word for shake "secouer" and its dancers are renowned for their erotic moves.

''Tabu Ley Rochereau, our master, our guide and our father, was and will forever be the pride of the Congolese nation," Mr Olomide, who is also a popular rumba musician, told the gathering of politicians, including the president, and other dignitaries.

"And so, respectfully, we ask President Joseph Kabila and his government to officially make the day of Tabu Ley's passing the national day for Congolese rumba and Congolese musicians.''


The BBC's Maud Jullien in Kinshasa says the parliament building is covered in posters of the man his fans call "Seigneur Ley".

People of all ages came to pay their last tributes to the musician, she says.

"I didn't go to school because I wanted to pay a tribute to Tabu Ley, a monument of African music," 18-year-old Joachim, who was amongst the crowd outside parliament, told the BBC

"His songs have become classics, and his lyrics are so true, even if he is not from our generation, we will remember him."

Inside the parliament, two of the stars many children spoke during the service.

It is thought he could have as many as 84 children, although he only officially recognised 49, our reporter says.

One of his sons, the French rapper Youssoupha, said he worshipped his father's work as an artist.

''He was the main inspiration for all the following generations of Congolese musicians, and will continue to be," he said.

"Could he have given a more extraordinary present to his culture than to make millions of Ivorians, Gabonese, Chadians, and even Cubans, sing in Lingala?''

Image caption,
After the service, fans prepared to follow the funeral cortege

Tabu Ley was born in the western city of Bandundu more than 70 years ago - his exact date of birth is not known - first singing in church and school choirs.

His career took off shortly before the country's independence from Belgium in 1960 when he moved to Kinshasa.

He went into exile in the 1980s during Mobutu Sese Seko's long rule, returning after his overthrow in 1997.

The musician then went into politics, serving amongst other roles as a deputy governor of Kinshasa and a provincial cultural minister.

He died in hospital in Belgium on 30 November and had not been well for some time.

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